Essaying in Unconventional Forms
Do you have a story to tell, but struggle in knowing where to begin? Are there gaps in memory, or lulls in action, that make a traditional narrative arc unwieldy? Are you ready to try something new in your nonfiction writing?
This class is about setting aside the demands of chronology by embracing lyric structures. We’ll explore four different shapes, one each week—segmented essays, braided essays, hermit crabs (essays using found forms), and flash nonfiction / micro-memoir—by distilling basic craft principles, reading compelling examples from contemporary writers, and using prompts to get you started. Participants submit work for three out of the four weeks, taking a “pass” one week (a week of your choice) to focus instead on dialogue over assigned readings and classmates’ drafts.
Sandra Beasley is the author of four poetry collections—Made to Explode, Count the Waves, I Was the Jukebox, which won the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling—as well as Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir and cultural history of food allergies. She served as the editor for Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Honors for her work include the 2019 Munster Literature Centre’s John Montague International Poetry Fellowship, a 2015 NEA fellowship, and five DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities fellowships. She lives in Washington, D.C.